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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy ABCinema in downtown Decatur will open Oct. 29 with the locally produced movie “Two Steps From Home.”

Sunday, October 22, 2017 1:00 am

Movies coming to downtown Decatur

Whim led local man to invest $250,000 to create theater

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

As if Corey Affolder didn't have enough to do.

He sells real estate, has about 20 rental properties, and is a Disney travel planner. The Adams County resident is also a Washington Township trustee.

And, oh, he's a substitute school bus driver for North Adams and Adams Central school districts.

Now you can add history maker to the list. Affolder is about to bring movies back to Decatur, opening ABCinema in downtown space that wasn't being used.

About 500 people, he estimates, have been through the old storefronts at 130 W. Monroe St. to get a sneak preview of the theater, which will show first-run movies. A locally produced movie will be shown Oct. 29. The first weekend in November, the theater will show “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Decatur, Affolder said, hasn't had a movie theater for several decades.

“We just wanted something for the people of Decatur to do,” Affolder, 43, said in an interview last week.

Affolder estimates he has spent at least $250,000 to $300,000 since he purchased the space, having it gutted and renovated. About $50,000 of his investment was spent on the movie projector.

The theater will offer “squishy, lean-back seats; leather,” Affolder said.

An artist created some wall designs; the theater has nearly 30 different paint colors inside. One wall provides a display of past local movie theaters.

“Everybody that's been in has said, 'Wow,'” he said. “Everything is state of the art. It's not like we skimped anywhere.”

Affolder said he hired a movie broker to provide guidance for the theater, which will show movies rated PG-13 – “family-friendly stuff.”

Theater equipment was installed last month. Patrons can watch a movie for $5. Popcorn will cost $3 and so will pop, but purchasing both at the same time will cost $5 instead of $6.

That's a discount compared to what major theater chains are charging, even for matinees.

Affolder, though, is optimistic about the theater, which will employ 14 mostly part-time and be open Thursdays through Sundays.

“We hope to break even. ... It will all work out in the end,” he said.

These are tough times for theaters. Some operators have been consolidating, upgrading seating and offering more amenities as people looking for entertainment tend to rent movies to watch at home from the comfort of their favorite, cushy armchair or couch.

Opening a theater in a small community may seem risky – even more so for someone like Affolder. “I'm not a movie buff,” he admits.

So how did he end up investing thousands of dollars to open a theater? The credit goes to “Beauty and the Beast,” the movie that due to technical difficulties didn't show at a Portland theater Affolder said he went to while visiting a friend in late March on spring break. Most Decatur residents go to Portland, Fort Wayne or Van Wert, Ohio, to catch a movie, he said.

Disappointed about taking a 40-minute drive and not seeing “Beauty and the Beast,” Affolder was inspired to bring the big-screen entertainment option closer to home.

“It literally was on a whim,” said Affolder, who is married and has two children – a teen and a pre-teen. “This is not an aspiration of ours from the 1920s.”

The art of making movies, however, may be an aspiration for some youth connected to the local church that is involved in the Oct. 29 opening.

“Two Steps From Home” is the creation of Gaffer Media, the film production entity that is part of the youth ministry at Common Ground Church.

The movie centers on a teenage girl struggling to follow family rules, a family tragedy that helps lead to her parents' divorce and the choice to “find hope in God's ever-present help or to turn away in angry rebellion.”

The movie, now available on DVD at sites including www.christianbooks.com, premiered in Fort Wayne at the Coldwater Crossing theater this spring, said Kevin Stirratt, lead pastor for Common Ground. It was funded with a $30,000 grant from the Center for Congregations, an organization funded by the Lilly Endowment. The grant required a match, and the church was able to raise $60,000.

“A few years ago, we revamped our youth ministry around the arts and focused on helping kids communicate their story in Christ through the arts,” Stirratt said.

Gaffer Media combines the skills of those familiar with theater production and the interests of youth in that field.

Justin Landis is the church's youth arts pastor and was in charge of the movie production. Landis grew up in Decatur, where he said the “coolest thing to do was to go to Walmart.”

Landis is excited about the movie that he helped bring to reality being part of the theater's opening.

ABCinema has a Facebook page that more than 2,600 people “like” and nearly 2,700 people follow.

“Two Steps From Home” will be shown for free at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 29.

“It's a huge honor and privilege for sure,” Landis said.

lisagreen@jg.net